Your Last Summer

How was the last free summer of your life? If you were a college kid, how aware were you that the three months between your junior and senior years would be the last carefree three months of your life?

Not everyone gets to enjoy this time very much, of course. Those months can be filled with summer session classes as students get back on track to graduate the following spring, or by jobs or internships. The experience of Deirdre Hansen, the main character in UNDER FALSE PRETENSES, with nothing to do until she heads back to school, is by no means the norm, especially these days.

My last summer was kind of a mix of the two experiences. In previous school breaks, I worked as a bank teller in my hometown so I’d have some “walking around” money during the school year. My last summer, however, I remained in San Diego, where I took that extra class I needed so I’d be able to graduate the following May. I think it was a drama class. I also used time to work on the craft of writing fiction, though I produced nothing that will ever see the light of day — I hope.

Otherwise, it was a time of going to the beach, enjoying the swimming pool of my apartment complex and hanging out with my girlfriend-future wife. You can think I was a lazy, spoiled bum. For that time, I was. But it set up what came later, which was a lot of long hours working a series of tedious journalism jobs. I had that prior time to enjoy myself so I could enter the working world without regrets.

As of this writing, I have one child in the grown-up working world, another enjoying that junior-senior summer transition, and a third still in high school. We parents these days tend to push our children hard, fully aware that it’s a competitive world out there — and that the battles have crept from adulthood into college years and even before. You hear the jokes about young mothers weeping because their beloved wasn’t accepted into the right kind of preschool.

But your children have to be ready to face those battles, whenever they come. They’ll be much better off with a sort of buffer time before the ol’ 9-to-5. Choose a metaphor: they need to hit the refresh button or recharge the batteries. Give them that last summer to enjoy themselves or, as some families do, let them hike Europe or someplace for six months after they graduate. Unlike Deirdre, they’ll be better for it when they enter the real world.



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